Atlanta Hawks Josh Smith reacts during the final moments of the fourth quarter of Game 6 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff basketball series against the Boston Celtics in Boston

Are the Rockets in the market for Josh Smith? Maybe not quite yet.


Trade speculation surrounding Josh Smith is in full swing. The Brooklyn Nets and San Antonio Spurs have been reported as potential landing spots, but there may not be a more attractive trading partner for the Hawks given their rebuilding process than the Houston Rockets. Despite lacking a “big name” who can be moved, Houston has a ton of productive players on cheap, rookie deals. There are guys we haven’t even really seen like Terrence Jones or Donatas Motiejunas who are intriguing prospects, and there are useful pieces like Patrick Patterson and Greg Smith.

But while a potential deal with Houston would make sense for Atlanta, it may not make sense for Houston. The Rockets have max cap room heading into this offseason, so sacrificing multiple assets to acquire a guy who will be a free agent in a few months may be a waste. Here’s Daryl Morey explaining Houston’s situation to Sam Amick of USA Today:

“The Rockets — who signed point guard Jeremy Lin in the summer and traded for Oklahoma City’s James Harden in late October — are on the lookout for another star and have enough salary cap space this summer to add a maximum-salary free agent. At the moment, that appears to be their path of choice.

“Most likely, it’s not going to be through trade,” Morey told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “Most likely, it’s going to be through the use of our cap room where we have max room this summer.

“I think (the time between now and the deadline) is going to be quiet. Of course a year ago, if you would’ve said, ‘James Harden – what about him?’ I would’ve said, ‘No way. They won’t trade him.’ You never know. You stay opportunistic. But I would guess that this trade deadline is going to be quiet.”

Via Sam Amick | USA Today

This is what Morey should say. The Rockets would have to combine quite a few salaries to match for a guy like Smith right now, and despite their playoff push, there really shouldn’t be a rush to contend. The financial situation is great, they have an incredibly young core, and they have a true star in James Harden.

With that said, it’s Harden who now shares some of the recruiting responsibility with Morey.

Asked if he had a specific player he wanted to join forces with, Harden — who doesn’t have off-court relationships with any of the players mentioned — says he’s not sure just yet.

“I don’t, and if I did have a guy I’d be texting him every single day,” he told USA TODAY Sports in a recent interview. “Dwight, Chris Paul, Bynum, all of them. I haven’t come across them. I’m more low-key.”

Low-key probably works for Houston right now. They’ll be hosting the All-Star game this weekend, so everyone will get a taste of what life in Houston is like. They’re contending ahead of schedule, true, but many a franchise has been wrecked by pushing the chips to the center of the table too quickly. Josh Smith does fit with what Houston wants to do, but patience may be the most valuable asset the Rockets can utilize at the trade deadline this year.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.